Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Console Post Of The Week: This Time, With Notes About Plenty Of Other Things As Well

If this is correct (and if it's not, it's close), here are your October NPD numbers:
Xbox 360--325,000

For comparsion, last year's October sales:
Xbox 360--249,700

Yes--those are huge changes for all three consoles. Microsoft and Sony have almost exactly reversed sales figures, while Nintendo is down over half.

What we can say in reasonably educated fashion:
--Microsoft's 2010 final sales in the U.S. will be up over 20% from 2009, and they will easily be the best selling console in the U.S. for 2010. Kinect may or may not be driving hardware sales, but it has a legitimate buzz going.
--Sony's 2010 final sales in the U.S. will be up less than 5% from 2009. "Move", in spite of Sony's claims, isn't moving anything at all, least of all console sales.
--Nintendo's 2010 final sales, at best, will be down 35% from 2009. At best. And no one seems to be excited about the Wii anymore.

More interesting this month than the hardware numbers, though, are some of the software figures. Tony Hawk: Shread? 3,000 units. Shaun White Skateboarding? Less than 10,000 units.

It's not just the music game genre that's on life support--skateboarding looks like it's in ICU right now as well. They may give a do not resuscitate order at any time.

Oh, and here's one more. DJ Hero 2? 59,000 units [cue sound of Bobby Kotick coughing up a human soul]. The DJ Hero Franchise? Dead. We're all just sitting around waiting for the obituary.

Are you seeing a trend here? I am, and it's disturbing. With almost everyone (EA, Take-Two, Ubisoft, etc.) following the Activision strategy of releasing fewer games, watching these franchises die off like honeybees is positively alarming.

Let's take a look in the DQ wayback machine, from March 30 of this year:
With fewer games from everyone, it becomes a marketing arms race. Much more is riding on each game, and even one failure is a disaster. Remember, too, that these games have to sell over a million units to even have a chance to break even.

In the "old" days, maybe a "AAA" flop would be recouped by a lower budget game that exceeded expectations, a game that could grow into a top tier franchise. With the big publishers, though, that second tier is essentially gone now. There's no fallback, no surprise hit.

For us, it means that these companies are going to flog existing franchises until their coats are foaming and they break down. Then they'll be shot. But there will be nothing to replace them, because there were no lower-tier franchises being groomed to eventually take their place.

Right now, I think it's fair to say that Tony Hawk, DJ Hero, and Guitar Hero are dead franchises. What does Activision have left besides Modern Warfare and World of Warcraft? They have Bungie working on a new franchise, which apparently better have "War" in the title.

So here's the question: when a bunch of companies follow Activision's strategy because Activision is making so much  money, and then Activision throws up all over itself, what do those other companies do then?

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